By Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of 1967 before moving out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.
Since I read The Marriage Plot a few years ago, I’ve been meaning to read the two other books by Jeffrey Eugenides. It seems I’m reading the books in reverse chronological order!
Even though this book won the Pulitzer Prize and is generally considered to be his best work, I still liked The Marriage Plot better. Middlesex wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t what I expected either.The family history is really the root of this story. It’s quite similar to East of Eden in that way. A hermaphrodite for a narrator is kind of the background to this family story and the true history that intertwines with it. It isn’t until much later in the book, that we get Callie/Cal’s revelation and what exactly that means. And we still only get a small slice of what that’s like.
I struggled through the beginning of this book and kept turning and reading other things before really sitting down and reading it. I was able to settle in once Desdemona and Lefty got to America, but the jumping timelines, many names, and dense writing made it a hard slog until that point.
Still, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this one and will be reading The Virgin Suicides eventually.